Monday, October 29, 2018

World Series Redux: Dodgers vs. Red Sox



It's been 102-years since the Dodgers and Red Sox last met in baseball's Fall Classic.  Back in 1916 the Brooklyn club is known as the Robins (nicknamed after manager Wilbert Robinson), while the series itself is split between Ebbets Field and Boston's Braves Field - not Fenway Park - due to its greater seating capacity.

Charles Ebbets' now four year old partnership with brothers Stephen and Edward McKeever is paying off.  The influx of capital provided by them initially helps facilitate the completion and grand opening of Ebbets Field.  By 1916, additional investitures in talent return early dividends both on the field, and at the gate.  With a 94-60 (.610) record, the first place Robins finish 2.5 games ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies en route to claiming the organization's second ever National League pennant, and their first of the new century.  In return, a franchise record 447,747 fans spin the turnstiles in support of their club.

1916 National League Champions

Brooklyn veteran, standout first baseman, and two-time batting champ Jake Daubert finishes second in the season hitting race with a .316 average.  Zack Wheat, now in his eighth year with the club, leads the team with nine home runs and 73 RBI, and moreover leads the National League with 32 doubles, a .461 slugging average, and 262 total bases.  In his fifth season with Brooklyn, a 25-year old Casey Stengel plays 127 games in right field, batting .279 with 27 doubles, eight triples, and 53 RBI, while finishing second behind Daubert with eight home runs.

However, Wilbert Robinson does not hold off the Phillies were it not for his pitching.  Brooklyn boasts three starters with ERAs under two, led by staff ace Jeff Pfeffer, who posts a 25-11 record with a 1.92 ERA through 328.2 innings pitched.  Larry Cheney goes 18-12 and mirrors Pfeffer's ERA.  A rejuvenated Rube Marquard pitching in his first full season for Brooklyn makes 21 starts/36 appearances, posting a 13-6 record with a fine 1.58 ERA through 205 innings pitched.

The Boston Red Sox own the distinction of being baseball's first ever World Series champion of the modern era, when in 1903 they defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first agreed upon playoff between the National and American leagues.  Just don't say that in front of John McGraw.  It offends him.  He dismisses outright Ban Johnson's upstart league, much less the 1903 series.  As luck would have it, the Red Sox wind up defeating McGraw's Giants in 1912, then go on to capture their third ever title in 1915 over the Philadelphia Athletics.  By 1916, the Red Sox set their sights on becoming the first ever major league team to achieve four World Series victories.

Defending World Series Champions

Like the Robins, the first place Red Sox clinch the American League pennant with a 91-63 (.591) record, barely outlasting the Chicago White Sox by a two game margin - but not without a hint of apathy in the summer air.  To the dismay of Red Sox fans, the revered Tris Speaker is sold away to the Cleveland Indians.  This perhaps explains Boston fans' recoil at the gate, where in 1915 they lead the league in attendance then fall to third in 1916 despite fielding another championship caliber club.

In the meantime, a 21-year old southpaw pitcher named George "Babe" Ruth authors the finest season of his dominant, albeit brief five-plus year pitching career.  In 1916, George leads the league both with 40 starts and a 1.75 ERA.  He posts a 23-12 record with nine shutouts and a 4.7 K/9 average, while walking 118 batters and surrendering just 230 hits over 323.2 innings pitched for a 1.075 WHiP.  He is also the only major league pitcher to not surrender a home run all season.

In between starts, Ruth likes playing right field so as to get a few more at-bats.  The Red Sox oblige, but to mixed results.  In 136 regular season at-bats, Ruth slashes .272/.322/.419, with five doubles, three home runs, and 16 RBI.  Although he indeed, albeit strangely ties for the team lead in home runs, his future is clearly destined to play itself out on a pitcher's mound.  But that's not exactly a ringing endorsement of outfielders Tillie Walker or Duffy Lewis - Harry Hooper withstanding.

Ruth, however, is only scratching the surface.  The Red Sox are defending champions for a reason. Manager Bill Carrigan is prepared to throw any one of his five young superlative starters at Brooklyn, not to mention the spillover of quality pitching awaiting in his bullpen.  Second year Red Sox Carl Mays, and four year Sox pitchers Rube Foster and Dutch Leonard, along with Giants import Ernie Shore, and Sad Sam Jones and Herb Pennock waiting in the wings, all stand poised to turn back the 1916 National League challengers from Brooklyn.

Rube Marquard  vs.  Ernie Shore
Robins     5
Red Sox   6

Two former New York Giants hurlers face off in Game One at Braves Field.  Ernie Shore toes the rubber for the Boston Red Sox, and is opposed by three-time 20-game winner Rube Marquard.

Boston strikes first with consecutive extra-base hits in the third inning.  With two outs, first baseman Dick Hoblitzell triples to right, then scores on left fielder Duffy Lewis' double to left.  But Brooklyn answers right back.  Casey Stengel singles leading off the fourth, then scampers home on Zack Wheat's triple to right.

Red Sox right fielder Harry Hooper doubles leading off the bottom of the fifth.  Hooper is successfully sacrificed over to third base, then is delivered home on center fielder Tillie Walker's base hit, giving Boston a 2-1 advantage.  The game goes awry for Brooklyn in the seventh.  Marquard surrenders a lead-off double to second baseman Hal Janvrin.  After which, two infield errors and good situational hitting on behalf of Boston result in a 1-5 Robins deficit.  In relief of Marquard, manager Wilbert Robinson calls upon staff ace Jeff Pfeffer to pitch the eighth.  However, Brooklyn's fourth error of the game leads to yet another tack-on run for Boston.  Brooklyn rallies off Ernie Shore for four runs in the top of the ninth.  But Red Sox manager Carrigan summons Carl Mays from the bullpen to halt Brooklyn's comeback bid one run short.

The Red Sox take Game One over Brooklyn by a 6-5 final at Braves Field, Boston.

Rube Marquard pitches seven innings in a losing effort, allowing five runs (three earned) on seven hits and four walks, with six strikeouts.  Ernie Shore surrenders five runs (three earned) on nine hits and three walks, with five strikeouts through 8.2 innings for the win.  Carl Mays gets credit with a save.

Sherry Smith  vs.  Babe Ruth
Robins    1
Red Sox  2

The Robins come out swinging against Boston starter Babe Ruth.  Leading off the game, Jimmy Johnston's fly to deep center eventually comes to rest 420-feet away from home plate in the patiently waiting hands of Red Sox Tillie Walker.  Keep this in mind: if at Ebbets Field, Johnston's blow carries up, out, and onto Bedford Avenue.  Thus, welcome to new Braves Field (opened August 1915), where there exists between home plate and the center field fence roughly 550-feet of playing surface.  In order to simulate such dimensions Brooklyn would need to close off Bedford Avenue and extend the center field fences to the north/east corner of Montgomery Street.

After first baseman Jake Daubert grounds out to third, Hi Myers squares up another Babe Ruth offering high, deep, and this time beyond the reach of Tillie Walker and right fielder Harry Hooper for an inside the park home run, and an early 1-0 Robins lead.

So begins Game Two of the 1916 World Series ...

Bostons evens the game in the bottom of the third.  Shortstop Everett Scott opens with a triple to the left/center field gap.  After which, Babe Ruth helps his own cause with a ground ball to second base, scoring Scott from third.

Things stay this way through the ninth, and into extra innings they go.  Neither starting pitcher yields to the bullpen.  Brooklyn's Sherry Smith and Boston's Babe Ruth duel pitch for pitch through 13 innings of play.  However, Smith breaks a cardinal rule in the bottom of the 14th inning by walking the lead-off batter.  Boston's Duffy Lewis successfully sacrifices Dick Hoblitzell to second, whom then scores the game winning run on pinch-hitter Dale Gainer's hit to left.

Babe Ruth pitches 14 full innings for the victory, surrendering just one earned run on six hits, three walks, and four strikeouts.  Sherry Smith surrenders two earned runs on seven hits and six walks, the last of which obviously comes back to haunt him.  He fans two batters through 13.2 innings in a hard-luck losing effort.

Carl Mays vs. Jack Coombs
Red Sox  3
Robins    4

Four-year old Ebbets Field hosts its first ever World Series game.  However, thousands of seats go unsold as Charles Ebbets scandalously raises ticket prices to five dollars.  The backlash is severe as a mere 21,087 spectators - nearly 9,000 shy of capacity - witness their Robins hold on to win Game Three by a slim 4-3 margin.

The Brooks jump out to an early lead when Jack Daubert scores on second baseman George Cutshaw's two-out base hit to right.  Brooklyn starting pitcher Jack Coombs helps his own cause with a base hit in the fifth which plates shortstop Ivy Olson for a 2-0 lead.  Olson then drives in two more runs in the sixth with a triple to right.

Undeterred, runs batted in by Boston's Harry Hooper and center fielder Chick Shorten in the top of the sixth cut Brooklyn's lead by half.  The Red Sox then close to within one run on third baseman Larry Gardner's seventh inning home run.  That inspires Wilbert Robinson into making a pitching change.  Jack Coombs exits on the winning side of a 4-3 game, after allowing three earned runs on seven hits and just one walk through 6.1 innings pitched.  Just as Brooklyn's manager had done in Game One, Robinson turns to his staff ace Jeff Pfeffer for relief, whom tosses 2.2 scoreless innings of no-hit ball with three strikeouts.

Boston starter Carl Mays in a losing effort surrenders four earned runs on seven hits and three walks through five innings.  Rube Foster follows with three scoreless innings in relief of Mays.

Game Four @ Ebbets Field
Dutch Leonard vs. Rube Marquard
Red Sox   6
Robins     2

Despite the Robins victory in Game Three, Brooklyn's backlash at the gate continues for a second straight game as nearly a third of all seats again go unsold.  Due to hiked-up ticket prices, just under 22,000 spectators witness the Robins fall behind in the series three games to one.

For a third straight game, Brooklyn jumps out to an early lead.  Facing Boston's Dutch Leonard,  Jimmy Johnston leading off the home first inning triples to the right/center field gap.  Hi Myers follows with an RBI single to right, and shortly thereafter scores when Red Sox Hal Janvrin mishandles George Cutshaw's ground ball to second.

However, Boston quickly turns the tables on Brooklyn starter Rube Marquard and the Robins.  Dick Hoblitzell draws a walk leading off the second.  Duffy Lewis then doubles to right.  Next up, Larry Gardner strikes a fly to deep left/center for an inside the park home run - his second of the series - giving the Red Sox a 3-2 lead.  Boston adds to their lead in the fourth on catcher Bill Carrigan's base hit, and again in the fifth on a run scoring double by Hoblitzell, whom later caps off the scoring with another run scoring hit in the seventh.

Dutch Leonard goes the distance for Boston, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits and four walks, with three strikeouts.  Rube Marquard lasts just four innings in a losing effort, allowing four earned runs on five hits and two walks, with three strikeouts.  Larry Cheney and Nap Rucker join to pitch the final five innings.

Game Five @ Braves Field
Jeff Pfeffer vs. Ernie Shore
Robins     1
Red Sox   4

Boston's Ernie Shore makes his second start of the series.  He is opposed by Brooklyn ace Jeff Pfeffer, whom makes his first and only start of the series, as Coach Robinson prefers instead utilizing Pfeffer out of the bullpen in games One and Three.

The Robins take a 1-0 lead in the top of the second, when George Cutshaw scores from third on a passed ball charged to Red Sox catcher Hick Cady.  The lead is short lived as Boston answers in the bottom half of the frame.  With one out, Duffy Lewis strokes a triple to left, then scores on Larry Gardner's sac-fly.

In the bottom of the third, two errors by Robins shortstop Ivy Olson lead to a pair of unearned runs, and a 1-3 Brooklyn deficit.  Hal Janvrin's run scoring double in the fifth then extends Boston's lead to three.

Ernie Shore takes care of the rest.  The Red Sox starter pitches a nine inning gem, allowing just one unearned run on three hits and one walk, with four strikeouts for the series clinching victory.  Jeff Pfeffer takes the loss after allowing four runs (two earned ) through seven innings on six hits and two walks, with two strikeouts.

The 43,620 fans in attendance at Braves Field witness the Boston Red Sox clinch their second of back-to-back championships, and their fourth World Series title overall - the most of any club since 1903.

Plaque at site of Braves Field

Boston Red Sox defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

Sunday, October 28, 2018

N.Y. Giants: Big Blue Quarterback Dilemma Nothing New

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

"Torn Between Two Lovers ... 
Feeling Like a Fool"

New York Giants: A Tale of Two Franchise Quarterbacks ...

Once upon a time, a general manager named George Young drafts an unknown quarterback from Morehead St., named Phil Simms.  Then NFL commissioner Pete Rozell even laughs in stunned disbelief as he announces the Giants selection.  Seven years later Simms leads the Giants to their first ever Super Bowl championship.  His own record setting performance earns him MVP honors.  Four years later, Simms and Jeff Hostetler lead them to a second Super Bowl championship.  However, the sudden departure of Bill Parcells hastens the end of the Giants glory days.  Yet, Phil Simms is still able to lead Big Blue to one more playoff victory in 1993 over the Vikings.  After which, the 38-year old Phil Simms is informed his contract would not be renewed by the organization.  His time as quarterback for the New York Giants, and his playing career effectively end right then.  The organization then commits to a full blown rebuild.  Enter Dave Brown, Kent Graham, et al.

Fast forward ...

The Giants trade for Eli Manning in a draft day acquisition.  Guess that makes him somewhat of an adoptive son.  After all, he was Ernie Accorsi's guy all along.  Point is fans embrace him, always have.  He's our blue bleeding Mr. Freeze.  And despite the continuing devolution of the Giants I still trust Eli - deficiencies and all - provided his is afforded safer working conditions.

Four years into his career, he leads the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XLII and is named game MVP.  Four years later he again leads the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XLVI, and for a second time is named game MVP.  After which, the overall talent level around him begins its precipitous decline.  The Giants glory years are clearly behind them, and it takes another five years before Eli and the Giants would again participate in post-season play. 

Sound familiar?

That was two seasons ago.  The Giants have won just four of their last 23 regular games.  Manning turns 38-years old this coming January, and his replacement is nowhere in sight.  That makes it rather unclear whether Dave Gettleman is leaning towards a full blown rebuild despite this week trading Eli Apple and Snacks.

Here we have a Giant tale in the handling of two franchise quarterbacks.  George Young handled Phil Simms with conviction.  The manner in which Jerry Reese, Dave Gettleman, and John Mara himself have handled Eli Manning's end of years, not so much.  And there's the rub, George Young acted on behalf of Wellington Mara.  I've never been inclined to blame John Mara for much.  But it's time for resistant fans to admit this present mess falls squarely in his lap.  Eli-Gate started with him, not to mention his loyalty to Jerry Reese.

Outside of drafting a quarterback, the only other way of acquiring one of any quality is via the rare trade.  Another way is capitalizing on another team's bad situation as the Giants did with their opportunistic acquisition of Kerry Collins.

If I'm the Giants, I'm paying close attention to the developing situation at Oakland between Derek Carr and the Raiders.  John Gruden is in the midst of trading assets for picks.  In other words, he's gutting the roster, and I couldn't applaud him more.  He's already amassed five first round draft picks.  As such, I feel Carr would be a great acquisition to get the Giants through some rebuilding years.  The Giants should at least be interested, but in no way should they overpay.  They'll also need to find Eli another home first, perhaps reuniting him with Tom Coughlin at Jacksonville.

If John Mara orders Dave Gettleman to gut this once and for all, much of the drama surrounding the Giants will go away.  I say that because more and more over the last two seasons, they've become the Jets, and Knicks, and Mets, as main suppliers of back page fodder.

PIGSKIN 2018: Week Eight

Week Eight

Week Six
Week Seven

Week Seven Record:  6-6-1
Overall Record:  32-56-4
Schmear of the Week:  3-4
Bagels in the Basket:  -33

1st and Ten:
  • Rams remain lone undefeated team.
  • After starting 0-3, Houston is in first place after having won five straight.
  • Cowboys trade for Amari Cooper potentially changes narrative in NFC East.
  • John Gruden now owns five first round selections in next year's draft.
2nd and Long:
  • Second place Miami Sea Mammals are hanging in at 4-4, but they're blowing it.
  • Eli Manning has been sacked this season the second most times in the NFL.
  • I still say second place Chargers are a paper tiger; Philip Rivers is having hell of a season, though.
No Gain:
  • Le'Veon Bell
  • Browns haven't won at Heinz Field since 2003 ... famous last words.
  • Jacksonville really needs to do something about Blake Bortles... like trade for Eli Manning?
  • That said, Odell Beckham is asking things of Eli that Matt Ryan can't even do for Julio Jones. Odell has two more TD than Jones, and has been targeted 4th most times in the NFL.  You know what I'm saying.
  • NFL fires Down Judge Hugo Cruz for being bad at what he does.!
  • Raising the white flag?  The Giants trade Eli Apple and Damon snacks Harrison in the same week, although the return isn't much; clear cap moves.
  • Ouch!  Houston receiver Will Fuller is out for the season.

Friday Line  ~ NYDN

D.C. Hogs -1 (GIANTS)
Hogs big defensive line comes to pour more kerosene on the dumpster fire that is the Giants offense.  Don't be surprised to see Kyle Lauletta fed to the lions pitch in relief of Eli Manning.   When Washington has the the ball, consider Adrian Peterson is rushing against a Giants front no longer featuring Snacks Harrison, and playing without linebacker Alec Ogletree.
WIN; 20-13 Hogs

BEARS -7 (Jets)
Khalil Mack ... ankle injury?  I had no idea.  No matter, with Bilal Powell requiring neck surgery, no Quincy Anunwa, and possibly no Robbie Thompson, Sam Darnold has no shot of leading this offense all by himself.  This is also California Dreamer's first game in Chicago.  In other words ... no.
WIN; 24-10 Bears

Eagles -3 (Jaguars) *London
A battle of two woefully underachieving 3-4 teams ... the Jags more so than the Eagles.  I gave em a fair chance, but Jacksonville's offense is just terrible, especially these last two weeks .  The Jags with Blake Bortes are in clear regression.
WIN; 24-18 Eagles

Steelers -8 (BROWNS)
Their Week One tie game was a legit effort on behalf of Cleveland.  They're staying in games.  But the Steelers are methodically getting their act back together, the defense is tightening up, and they're rested.  Let's see how the Browns hold up in the second half of the season.
WIN; 33-18 Steelers

CHIEFS -10 (Broncos)
The Chiefs are 7-0 ATS.  Unless you believe the Broncos are even slightly above average - which they're not - why jump off the Chiefs bandwagon now?
Loss; 30-23 Chiefs

LIONS -3 (Seahawks)
Matching points against Seattle isn't necessarily the Lions problem.  Limiting their scoring is.  Enter Damon Harrison, acquired from the Giants.  He'll fit in very nicely in a Lions defense that's been methodically improving over the last few weeks.
Loss; 28-14 Seahawks

Bucs +4 (BENGALS)
After starting 3-1, the Bengals are losers of two straight (although the Bucs don't belong in the same conversation along with the Steelers or Chiefs).  Cincinnati's defense  - now without Vontaze Burfict - will likely allow Tampa to keep this close.  Four points clinches this decision.
WIN; 37-34 Bengals

Ravens -2 (PANTHERS)
I  just don't know about those Panthers sometimes.  When their on top of their game, they're really good.  But they play far too often with their heads up their posteriors.  Defense carries week to week, and therefore I'm sticking with the Ravens.
Loss; 36-21 Panthers

Colts -3 (RAIDERS)
I know what John Gruden is doing.  I just don't know how his players feel about it.  They just may pack it in mentally and call it a season.  Add the injury to Marshawn Lynch, and the new mission clearly involves tanking.  I expect uninspired football over the second half of the season.  Andrew Luck will have his way.
WIN; 42-28 Colts

Straight up, the Niners are the better team ... even without Jimmy G.
Loss; 18-15 Cardinals

Packers +9 1/2 (RAMS)
I hear all that stuff about Aaron Rogers never before being this much of an underdog.  The Rams win in all likelihood.  But Rogers (knee) is rested, and will have all his offensive henchmen back on the field.  I'll take the points.  As an aside, the undefeated Rams are over due for a humbling game.  Just saying.
WIN; 29-27 Rams

The Vikings have loads of injuries on defense.  That's not to say the acquisition of Eli Apple helps the Saints much.  But if we're talking shoot-out here, I'll side with Breeze straight-up
WIN; 30-20 Saints

Schmear of the Week:
D.C. Hogs -1

Good luck, and have a great Football Sunday, everyone!

Week Eight Record:  8-4
Overall Record: 40-60-4
Schmear of the Week:  4-4
Bagels in the Basket:  -26

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Metsian Podcast Weighs-In on General Manager Candidates

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

with Sam, Rich, and Mike

70 minutes

I said the eff word.  It just slipped out.
Thus we present you with our last effing word on the 
Mets continuing search for a new general manager.

The future of the three-headed monster ~ did Jeff Wilpon throw Alderson under the bus?
review of general manager candidates ~ the process ~ those who rebuffed the Mets
the curious case of Kim Ng ~ Doug Melvin is out ~ agents as general managers
Father vs. Son ~ Fred vs. Jeff ~ Old vs. New ~ Scouting vs. Analytics
Brodie Van Wagenen ~ Chaim Bloom
Babe Ruth ~ Brooklyn Robins ~ 1916 World Series

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

N.Y. Jets: Vikings Add to Sam Darnold's Growing Pains

From the desk of:  WALT MICHAELS REVENGE

Week Seven
JETS         17

New York Jets: If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.

So how is Sam Darnold faring against the best?

So far Jacksonville and Minnesota respectively have put him through his toughest challenges.  Against a reputable Jaguars defense during Week Four, Darnold completes 17/34 (50%) for 167 yards, with one touchdown, and no INTs.  The Jets most recent loss against Minnesota proves to be Darnold's worst performance, to date.  He completes 17/42 (40%) for 206-yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions.  The Jets lose both games by a combined 69-29 score.  For his part, Darnold is a combined 34/76 (44%) for 373 yards, two touchdowns, and three INTs.

In fairness to Darnold, his favorite receiver Quincy Enunwa - whom leads the team in targets - did not play against Minnesota, and will remain out in the weeks to come with an injured ankle.  Terrelle Pryor already out with an injury gets cut, while several dropped passes by receivers who did play further compound the matter.  Hell, Robby Anderson even throws a football in the direction of an official which earns him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Otherwise, three Viking sacks punctuate an overall bad day.

In his five other starts (against the Lions, Dolphins, Browns, Broncos, and Colts), Sam Darnold is 99/145 (68%) for 1,179 yards, eight touchdowns, and seven INTs.  The Jets go 3-2 in those games, outscoring their opponents by a 147-108 margin.

There's no denying the Jets selected a fine quarterback.  And at the present time, he could really use some help at receiver.  However, the team to a large extent is in rebuild mode, are they not?  That begs the question: to what extent does Mike Maccagnan seek out a receiver to help bail out his franchise quarterback?

Caution: if the Jets have a plan, I suggest they stick with it.

In the meantime, Darnold should give Phil Simms a call for advice on how to throw spirals in  blustery Northeast weather conditions.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

PIGSKIN 2018: Week Seven

Week Seven

Week One
Week Two
Week Three
Week Four
Week Five
Week Six

Week Six Record:  2-11
Overall Record:  26-50-3
Schmear of the Week:  3-3
Bagels in the Basket:  -29

1st and Ten:
  • Rams remain the lone undefeated team in football.
  • During the week, Bill Belichick corrected a reporter when asked about Lawrence Taylor, saying there's L.T., then there's everyone else.
  • If you've been going against my picks these last two weeks, you've doing really well.  Your welcome.
2nd and Long:
  • Entering Week Seven, the Dolphins are still in the AFC East race.  Patriots aren't used to having intra-division competition.
No Gain:
  • Although highly doubtful, perhaps Julio Jones can teach Odell Beckham a thing or two about humility when the two run into each other Monday night at Atlanta.  After all, they're having the same type of season.  In fact, Gronk isn't scoring many TD's either.
  • Le'Veon Bell.
  • Dez Bryant still looking for a home.
  • Oakland's Marshawn Lynch will miss upwards of a month with a groin injury.
  • How do you feel about your team being included in the following list of one-win teams: Giants; Raiders; Colts; Cardinals.
  • Giants have a hot mess on their hands.  They seem to have forgotten lessons learned from former problem children Jeremy Shockey and Tiki Barber.  Odell Beckham continues reducing the famed (and dwindling) Giants Tradition into nothing less than back page fodder.

Friday Line ~ NYDN

FALCONS -5 1/2 (Giants) *Monday
The Falcons are getting back several key players on both sides of the ball.  Even if they're not 100% healthy, Atlanta still presents more than the Giants can handle at this moment.  Above all else, the Falcons are a desperate team which makes them especially dangerous.  Meanwhile, the Giants offensive line is going from bad to worse; right guard Patrick Omameh is questionable with a knee injury.  Or, is he actually being benched?
Loss; 23-20 Falcons

Vikings -3 (JETS)
Will the real Vikings please show up?  Minnesota follow two consecutive losses with unimpressive victories over the Eagles and Cardinals.  Now Dalvin Cook listed as out, meaning the Jets defense can better focus on Kirk Cousins.  Gang Green has scored 76-points over their last two victory.  Unfortunately for Sam Darnold, Quincy Enunwa is listed as out.  So much for that ...
WIN; 37-17 Vikings

Chargers -6 1/2 (Titans) *London
Seems as if the NFL dumped another Parity Bowl upon our friends across the pond.  Titans are coming off getting whitewashed by the Ravens, and otherwise continue playing yawn inspiring football.  The Chargers have only played two legitimate contenders to date and lost to them both.  They are the better team nevertheless.  Although they'll be without RB Melvin Gordon, their pass rush and a red-hot Philip Rivers should make this an easy cover.
Loss; 20-19 Chargers

BEARS +3 (Patriots)
The Bears defense is experiencing a few aches and pains.  Khalil Mack is nursing a barking ankle.  Chicago still has others who can pressure (the statue) Tom Brady.  Plus, New England's starting right tackle is out.  Rob Gronkowski and his back-up tight end are both out this week.  If Mitch Trubisky can somehow lead the Bears to an early lead, the Patriots have trouble playing catch-up on the road.
Loss; 38-31 Patriots

BUCS -3 (Browns)
The Bucs are coming off three straight losses and have fired their defensive coordinator as a result.  Players know that when coaches get fired it's usually their fault.  Thus I expect a reinvigorated effort against the Browns.  Baker Mayfield is a nice story, but has no top flight receiver to speak of.
PUSH; 26-23 Bucs  o.t.

DOLPHINS +3 (Lions)
Although they screwed me last week, the Sea Mammals are undefeated at home, and overall have adequately demonstrated a measure of consistency ... when Ryan Tannehill plays, that is.  Instead, Brock Osweiler makes another start.  I'll take my chances with Miami because the Lions won't be generating much of a pass rush minus DE Ezekiel Ansah.
Loss; 32-21 Lions

Panthers +4 1/2 (EAGLES)
Doesn't matter who is favored, I'm taking the points either way.
WIN; 21-17 Panthers

COLTS -7 1/2 (Bills)
I ate a bison burger the other day, and it was good.  The Buffalo Bills are not.  They've scored 76 points all season.  I don't even know who their quarterback is.  It just so happens the Colts have allowed the most points in the AFC, and the third most in the league.  All I'm asking from Indy is for a few key defensive stops - that's all.  C'mon, man.
WIN; 37-5 Colts

CHIEFS -6 (Bengals)
Defense be damned!  Get ready for a high-scoring shootout.  Arrowhead Stadium is not a friendly place to be.  The Bengals score a ton of points, but give up just as many.  The Chiefs allow even more points, but lead the NFL in total points scored.  They also own a +43 DIFF, which equates to an average of seven points per game.  The Bengals +16 DIFF translates into an average of two points per game.  That's how I justify laying the six.
WIN; 45-10 Chiefs

JAGUARS -4 1/2 (Texans)
After three straight victories, it appears as if the Texans have straightened themselves out.  I'm being kind, of course, but they won't have Leonard Fournette to deal with.  With a share of the division lead on the line, I expect a defensive struggle.  After two straight losses, the Jags are home where they'll lick their wounds.  I still like their defense against Deshaun Watson.  I'll admit, though, this spread spells trouble.
Loss; 20-7 Texans

RAVENS -2 1/2 (Saints)
Baltimore ain't the Big Easy, Drew.  The Saints reached 40-points three times this season - twice at Dome, and once on the road at Atlanta (whom have allowed the most points in the NFL to date).  Coming off a shutout of the Titans, I like the Ravens #1 ranked defense playing in front of their home crowd and arresting sole possession of first place.
Loss; 24-23 Saints

D.C. HOGS -1 1/2 (Cowboys)
I actually believe the Cowboys should be favored.  But I'll go ahead and bet Washington's front seven neutralizes Ezekiel Elliott, and that Alex Smith takes care of the rest.
WIN; 20-17 Hogs

Rams -10 (49ERS)
I can't think of a single reason why the Rams should not cover.  This is why they call it, gambling.
WIN; 39-10 Rams

Schmear of the Week: (3-3)
Chargers -6 1/2

Good luck, and have a great Football Sunday everyone!

Week Seven Record:  6-6-1
Overall Record:  32-56-4
Schmear of the Week:  3-4
Bagels in the Basket:  -33

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Brooklyn Nets: Caris LeVert Strides and Glides to Game Winning Basket

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH


Knicks   105
Nets       107

Brooklyn Nets: After Season Opening loss at Detroit, Flatbush opens Barclays Center with victory over cross-river rivals.

Brooklyn's home opener is a proverbial layup ...

Friday night at Barclays Center; game is tied with 15.9 second left in the fourth; Nets possession; Caris LeVert with the ball.  He dribbles to the top of the key, squares up against Tim Hardaway, then drives to the basket.  LeVert's lay-up attempt drops in with one second left on the clock.  Knicks assume possession.  After a full time out, Hardaway launches a three-point attempt from DeKalb Avenue, that misses.  And the Brooklyn Nets win their first game of the new season.

From the desk of: DUTCH PANTS CAN'T JUMP 

After taking a 57-50 lead over their cross-river rival into halftime, they regress in the third, but recover in time to outscore the Knicks 33-29 in the final session.  Flatbush finishes 49.3% from the floor, and 40% from three-point range.  They overwhelm the Knicks on the glass by a 55-36 margin, and prove better at ball distribution with a 22-14 edge is assists.  However, 22 turnovers very nearly becomes Brooklyn's undoing.  The Knicks commit just three turnovers all game.

Four of five Nets starters score in double-digits.  While Rodions Kurucs' eleven points and Spencer Dinwiddie's ten both off the bench makes five players in double-digits overall.

D'Angelo Russell scores 15-points, and ties Dinwiddie for team lead with six assists.

Try as they might, the New Yorkers have no answer for Caris LeVert who leads the team with a career high 28-points (10/11 from the line).  In fact, Levert's five rebounds are more than any Knicks player.

Jarrett Allen and Enes Kanter go toe to toe as each register double-doubles.  Kanter leads the floor with 29-points, and secures ten rebounds.  Allen answers with 15-points and leads all players with eleven rebounds.  Ed Davis adds another ten boards in just 14-minutes off the bench.

All that being said, scoring was never really an issue, right?  The Nets now own a minus/one differential after two games:
  • Nets - 207 points.
  • Opponents - 208 points.

Just saying ...

Off to Detroit.

N.Y. Knicks: Hard Knox Loss at Brooklyn

From the desk of:  DUTCH PANTS CAN'T JUMP

New York Knicks: Knox, Knox, I'm Here!?

Long ago my mom once told me you can't be disappointed with what you don't expect.  Two games into the regular season, consider it my opening statement as the New York Knickerbockers embark on the 2018-2019 regular season under new head coach David Fizdale.

Truth be told, the continuing employment of Steve Mills for me remains a major point of contention.  However, in fairness to this dawning of a new culture being championed by Scott Perry and Fizdale, there appears at least to be a more grass-rooted effort towards finally getting this done smartly, effectively, and above all, patiently.

All of which remains to be seen ... of course.

From the desk of: THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH 

Their Opening Night victory is simply a nice opening story - nothing more; nothing less.  If we're being pragmatic about this, then let's understand with haste that scoring 72-points in a first-half against the Hawks does not an impression make.  That has more to do with Atlanta's various deficiencies than what the Knicks bring to the table.  A 19-point margin of victory is a positive way to start the season nonetheless.

The schedule makers waste no time bringing the Knickerbockers and Brooklyn Nets together this season.  The two resumed their still burgeoning intercity rivalry at Barclays Center on Friday night, where Flatbush outlasts the Manhattanites for a 107-105 victory.

Extracting positives from loses are out of the question where legitimate contenders are concerned.  But with rebuilding clubs, they're inherently part of the process.

  • My first takeaway:  Rookie Kevin Knox demonstrates instant impact off the bench.  After Friday's effort, fans and media demanding his inclusion into the starting lineup are sure to follow.  I would argue that leaves the Knicks with a very weak bench.  Moreover, it's not who starts, but who finishes.  Against the Nets, Knox shoots 7/14 (50%) for 17-points in 28-minutes, with six rebounds, and a minus-four.  Knox winds up being just one of three Knicks scoring in double-digits.  Ironically starter Lance Thomas finishes with a minus/three, but shoots 0/4 from the floor with a pair of boards.
  • Take away number two:  Coach Fitzs throws a fit in the third period, and I like it.  If you're going to preach accountability, you have to follow through.
  • Take away number three:  I'm a big fan of Enes Kanter, who ties Tim Hardaway for the team lead with 29-points, and posts a double-double with a team leading ten boards.  If the first two games are any indication, Big Man on Campus will be playing more prominent minutes in crunch time this season, which was not the case last season.

The Knicks did not play with the same overall intensity they put forth against Atlanta, and thus are horribly out-worked on the boards.  Brooklyn controls the glass by a 55-38 margin, as two Nets post double-digit rebounds.  Trey Burke and Frank Ntilikina joined to shoot 7/20 (35%) for 17-points and six total assists.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

N.Y. Yankees: The Curse of Bucky F. Dent

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

Red Sox win ALDS 3-1
I - BOS 5; NYY 4
II - NYY 6; BOS 2
III - BOS 16; NYY 1
IV - BOS 4; NYY 3

New York Yankees: The Curse of Bucky Effin Dent?
  • Date: Monday, Oct. 2, 1978.
  • Setting: Late afternoon, Fenway Park, Boston.
  • Condition: Yankees and Red Sox finish the season tied necessitating regular season game #163 in order to decide the A.L. East title.  The winner moves on to the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals.

The Red Sox take an early lead on Carl Yastrzemski's second inning home off Ron Guidry.  Jim Rice drives home a run with a hit in the sixth giving Boston a 2-0 lead.  Mike Torrez pitches six scoreless innings, but with two outs in the seventh, he surrenders consecutive base hits to Chris Chambliss and Roy White.  Into the batter's box steps shortstop Bucky Dent.  He is 0 for 2 on the day with a fly to right and a pop-up to short.  Dent takes Torrez' first offering for a ball, then fouls the second pitch off his left foot.  The game is delayed as Dent receives attention from trainer Gene Monahan.  Dent also switches bats, then finally steps back in.  With the count at one ball and one strike, Mike Torrez delivers a fastball square over the plate ...

Here is Yankees WPIX announcer Bill White's call:
"Deep to left ... Yastrzemski will not get - It's a home run!  A three run home run for Bucky Dent!  And the Yankees now lead it 3-2!  Bucky Dent has just hit his fifth home run of the year, into the screen!  And look at that Yankees bench, led by Bob Lemon."

Catcher Thurman Munson shortly thereafter doubles home the Yankees fourth run of the inning.  However, it is Reggie Jackson's eighth inning home run to straight away center field which proves most pivotal, as Yastrzemski and Fred Lynn help the Red Sox rally for two runs off Goose Gossage in the bottom half of the frame, but no more.  Gossage closes out Boston in the ninth, and the Yankees clinch the A.L. East title.  They go on to defeat the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS, then for a second successive World Series defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers.

That historic one-game playoff takes place forty years ago.  Twenty-six years later the Yankees invite Bucky Dent to throw a ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium during the 2004 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox.  We all know what happens next.  The Curse of the Bambino if finally and forever broken.  Fourteen years later, the Yankees again invite Bucky Dent to throw out the first pitch prior to the start of Game Four of this year's ALDS. 

I have a saying: Once is an occurrence; twice is a coincidence; three times is a trend.

Just saying ...

Now for the ALDS that was.

Dave Dombrowski is a highly regarded executive.  He develops a reputation towards the latter part of his tenure with Detroit for spending like a drunken sailor and receives criticism for leaving the Tigers in a state of financial crisis.  When in truth he operates according to the mission statement handed him by Mike Illich during the late great owner's latter years of life.  But there's also a case to be made for Dombrowski's continuing fiscal folly with the Red Sox.  Releasing Edgar Renteria ($$$) is merely one example that hardly scratches the surface.  However, owner John Henry appears copacetic with the state of his economy, and his team.

Once the Red Sox are eliminated by the Astros in last season's ALDS, Dombrowski fires manager John Farrell with haste and immediately requests permission to speak with and ultimately interview Houston's bench coach Alex Cora while the Astros are still in the midst of their post-season run.

With regards to modern analytics, the Red Sox recognize its value and embrace baseball's newest evolutionary mutation with three arms.  Like most managers these days, Alex Cora is handed reams of information.  Dombrowski, however, leaves its application in Cora's hands to manage as he sees fit, or deems necessary.

Unlike Dombrowski who very early set his sights on Alex Cora, Brian Cashman informs Joe Girardi his contract will not be renewed, but then remains strangely idle.  Meanwhile, other available, and (to varying degrees) desirable candidates begin finding employment elsewhere.  Aaron Boone's name is presented to Brian Cashman as a late, unexpected, and obviously inexperienced candidate.  But the two are far from being strangers.  According to most reports Boone overwhelms the Yankees general manager and is hired on the spot.  I would argue, though, Aaron Boone isn't signed until December - two months after the World Series ends - when the market for managers had already thinned considerably.

Unlike Alex Cora, Aaron Boone is beholden to a far more restrictive operating procedure.  Brian Cashman is addicted to analytics, and has on numerous occasions appeared on sports radio making no bones about it: he wants his manager(s) adhering with strict compliance to information provided by the front office's expansive analytics department.  For both Joe Girardi and Aaron Boone, deviation was/is not an option.

Despite a most disappointing outcome I still believe this is one of general manager Brian Cashman's finest seasons on record, if not his best.  He put one dynasty to bed, and is in the process of potentially building another.  He's done everything a fan base could ask for: revitalizing the farm system; graduating new major league talent and legitimate stars; making subtle and well received transactions; following through with off-season maneuvering; and procuring reinforcements by the trade-deadline.  Then there are his boss' requirements.  Cashman not only satisfies Hal Steinbrenner's desire for being under the salary tax threshold, but has the Yankees supremely positioned to spend big money again on free agency.

All that being said, the manner in which this team sets their on field priorities and go about the game of baseball - losing this year's ALDS included - fall on the general manager for what I believe is his flawed application of analytics driven baseball.  Additionally, by parting ways with Joe Girardi and his ilk, Cashman shifts away (IMO) from demanding player accountability.

Cashman once mandated that Joe Girardi follow a script set forth by his Ivy League info squad, and presently demands Aaron Boone follows suit.  Outside of Boone being more affable with players and the media, there is no philosophical difference to speak of from one manager to the next.  There's no change with regard to in-game approach.  In fact, what's new is actually old.  I would argue Yankee analytics are just a 21st century cover of Earl Weaver's school of thought: reliance on strong pitching and three run home runs.  Problem is, the Yankees in the ALDS got neither.  Thus, in this results driven business Aaron Boone fails to elevate last year's band of overachievers to the next level.  Despite a 100-win season, they effectively take one step backwards.

Aside from Masahiro Tanaka, the trio of J.A. Happ, Luis Severino, and C.C. Sabathia all struggle mightily.  Boone, however, appears unprepared to negotiate three early exits.  Thus his failure to act in a timely manner ultimately contributes rather considerably in all three Yankees losses.  There's something to be said for all-hands-on-deck.  In Monday's Game Three at Yankees Stadium, Mookie Betts hit Luis Severino's very first offering of the game 405 feet to straight away center.  The bullpen should have began stirring right then.  After all, the Yankees main strength in both quality and depth is their bullpen.  Instead, Boone plays right into Alex Cora's hands.

Otherwise, a general lack of execution should be blamed on players.  After all, Aaron Boone is just doing what he's told.

Alex Cora brings his bench coaching experience and a share of Houston's World Series winning sensibilities to Boston where one of his first acts is to let his new team know just how bad they've been, and exactly what they're going to do in order to change it.  He inaugurates sweeping changes to the extent both Houston and Boston rank top two in most key statistical categories.  Under Cora, the Red Sox win a franchise record 108 games.  He stresses throughout each and every game to play aggressively.  The ALDS proves no less differently.  Many of his positional moves are in conflict with analytical directives.  Not to mention he twice gambles with Rick Porcello and Chris Sale in relief.  And there's the rub.  Alex Cora abandons the book and goes for the kill.  If Chris Sale blows Game Four, he loses him for a decisive Game Five.  Rick Pocello is scheduled to pitch Game Three.  Instead, he becomes one of the heroes of Game One.  His relief appearance necessitates Nathan Eovaldi pitching Game Three, who winds up tossing a gem.  And that's how Alex Cora circumvents his precarious bullpen bridge to Craig Kimbrel.

From bench coach and friends to being opponents and adversaries, Alex Cora now faces A.J.Hinch; Grasshopper versus Sensei.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

PIGSKIN 2018: Week Six

Week Six

Week One
Week Two
Week Three
Week Four
Week Five

Week Five Record:  2-10-1
Overall Record:  24-39-3
Schmear of the Week:  3-2
Bagels in the Basket:  -17

1st and Ten:
  • The Rams and Chief enter Week Six as the lone remaining undefeated teams.
  • Nine wins may be all it takes to win the NFC East.
2nd and Long:
  • Offensive lineman Ereck Flowers, released by the Giants, is picked up by the Jaguars.  Good luck with that.
No Gain:
  • Odell Beckham's entire career with the Giants.
  • The Giants, period.
  • Aaron Rogers' knee still hurts.
  • You are what you're record says you are.  The Giants - whose new brain-trust believed they had one more playoff run in them - drop to 1-5 this season, and are now 4-18 over the last two seasons.
  • Was Geno Smith trolling Eli Manning on Twitter?
  • Going 2-10-1 last week with my picks.

Friday Line ~ NYDN

Colts +2 1/2 (JETS)
The Jets actually have more sacks than people realize, and now Todd Bowles is calling defensive shots again.  That could spell trouble for an ill-protected Andrew Luck.  But don't get too excited.
Gang Green last week beat a Denver Broncos team that isn't playing very well against out-of-division opponents.  And now their secondary is suddenly banged up, and Mr. Butt Wipe is questionable.  Sam Darnold last week completes just ten passes, and three go for touchdowns.  Don't expect that sort of Midas touch two weeks in a row.  The Colts front can get after the quarterback.  The Jets also tend to flop after big wins.  Andrew Luck is still the best quarterback the Jets defense will have faced this season, to date.  My Spidey sense tells me he's gonna carve em up like a pumpkin.
Loss;  42-34 Jets

Cardinals +10 1/2 (VIKINGS)
Although they're clearly heading in the wrong direction, people also forget how good the Cardinals defense can be.  They're feeling better about themselves after finally winning their first game of the season.  I have no doubt Minnesota will win, but I hear the naysayers questioning their ability to protect home field.
WIN; 27-17 Vikings

BROWNS +1 (Chargers)
The mere fact Cleveland beat Baltimore is good enough for me.  Chargers do not impress me.  With no running game, the Chargers are very predictable.  Philip Rivers is forced to do everything, which in turn plays right into the hands of a young gamely Browns defense.  This spread is dead on.  Pick-six?  Brownies by four!
Loss; 38-14 Chargers

Bears -3 (DOLPHINS)
Hurricane Michael didn't threaten the Miami area, but the Chicago Bears will.  Da Bears are second in the league in sacks, while the Sea Mammals are only averaging 288 yards per game.  Ryan Tannehill is playing with a sore shoulder.  Khalil Mack on the other hand is very healthy.
Loss; 31-28 Dolphins

Panthers +1 (D.C. HOGS)
The Panthers shouldn't brag about wins over the Cowboys, Bengals, and Giants.  But the Hogs season has been such a roller coaster ride.  I'll take Carolina's stability, predictability, and the point.
Loss; 23-17 Hogs

BENGALS -2 1/2 (Steelers)
Whatever, man.  I've been over-thinking the Steelers all season.  I also shortchange Cincinnati every chance I get.  Still not comfortable with this pick.  Bengals are running the ball well, which could infringe upon Big Ben's on-field playing time.  Pittsburgh's defense might have something to say about that.  But that's when Dalton beats them over the top, right?  Vegas is practically gifting a field goal.  Lay the points.
Loss; 28-21 Steelers

Bucs +3 1/2 (FALCONS)
I'd like to pick Matt Ryan and the Falcons, but Devonta Freeman is listed as out, and injuries to the defensive line further compromise Atlanta's already terrible defense.  However, Tampa's defense is no better, and arguably worse.  Ryan Fitzpatrick had his fun.  Now Jameis Winston is back in the fold.  He brings a fresh variable to Tampa's game.  Did I already mention how terribly Atlanta's defense is playing?
Loss; 34-29 Falcons

Seahawks -3 (Raiders) *London
I live in Brooklyn, where we have more choices of places to eat and drink - sometimes both at the same time - than actual blades of grass growing in our backyards.  What I can not do here - or anywhere else in New York City for that matter - is sit for a good meal, order a cold draft or glass of wine, AND place a legal sports wager.  I love my city to death, and wear Brooklyn like a red badge of courage, but give credit where it's due.  Those Londoners got it right - fish and chips, ale, and sports wagering, all from your favorite local tavern.  Imagine that.  Marshawn Lynch facing his former team ... doesn't matter.
WIN; 27-3 Seahawks

TEXANS -8 1/2 (Bills)
After a miserable start, the Texans have won two in a row.  Still trying to figure how Bills beat the Vikings and Titans.
Loss; 20-13 Texans

Rams -7 (BRONCOS)
Until the Rams and Broncos prove otherwise.  Rams are 3-1-1 ATS; Broncos are 0-4-1 ATS.
Loss; 23-20 Rams

Jaguars -3 (COWBOYS)
With no receivers to speak of, Cowboys are very predictable.  Jags defense will have their way.  Jacksonville's offense generates on average 100-yards more than Dallas, and sport a +16 DIFF; the Cowboys -13 DIFF.
Loss; 40-7 Cowboys

TITANS +3 (Ravens)
Both teams are 3-2, and coming off losses.  Ravens are playing their fourth road game in six weeks.  That matters.  In what I believe will be a defensive battle, I'm throwing Mariota a bone and siding with the home dog.
Loss; 21-0 Ravens

PATRIOTS -3 1/2 (Chiefs)
The Chiefs last week scored 30-points against Jacksonville's defense.  That's certainly worthy of a mention.  But we all know what happens when Simon Bar Sinister has extra days with which to prepare.  He won't blitz much, not because Pat Mahomes runs well, but more so in an effort to clog up Kareem Hunt.  He's also likely to apply cover-two against Tyreek Hill and force him into playing outside the numbers.  Edelman is back.  Early season allergies previously affecting the Patriots now appear cured.
Loss; 43-40 Patriots

Schmear of the Week:  (3-2)
Bears -3

Good luck, and have a great Football Sunday!

Week Six Record:  2-11
Overall Record:  26-50-3
Schmear of the Week:  3-3
Bagels in the Basket:  -29

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

N.Y. Yankees: Bronx Bummer Leave Bombers on Brink

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

Red Sox lead series 2-1
I - BOS 5; NYY 4
II - NYY 6; BOS 2
III - BOS 16; NYY 1

RED SOX   16

Boston Red Sox Hand Bronx Bombers Worst Defeat in Franchise Post-Season History.

Featured prominently across the front of Boston's warm-up jersey reads their post-season mantra: Do Damage.  Monday at Yankee Stadium the Red Sox do just that, handing the Bronx Bombers their worst post-season defeat in their 115-year history, and pushing them to the brink of elimination.

Already lost upon Bomber fans' collective memory is Gary Sanchez becoming the first Yankee catcher to hit multiple home runs in one playoff game, or that Aaron Judge becomes the first Yankee since Reggie Jackson to homer in three consecutive playoff games.  With one more loss in this ALDS, all fans will remember is a 100-win regular season spiraling counter-clockwise down the toilet; rookie manager Aaron Boone's failure to get out of the first round a year after Joe Girardi leads them within one game of the World Series; and something a little closer to their heart, getting eliminated yet again by the rival Red Sox in their own yard.  Nothing short of two straight victories changes that narrative now.

This much, however, for the moment remains true as ever: the Yankees live and die by the home run.  Through two Yankees losses, they total just one home run - an Aaron Judge blast in the ninth inning of Game One.  In their Game Two victory, Judge hit his second of the series, and Gary Sanchez adds two.  From a Red Sox perspective, they trade home runs in Game One, and win; get out homered in Game Two and lose; then hit one home run versus zero for the Yankees in Game Three, and win.

Boston had already scored 14 runs on 17 hits before Brock Holt's two-run jolt in the ninth.  As an aside, he becomes MLB's first player to hit for the cycle in a post-season game.  Cycling back, the Yankees have hit four home runs versus Boston's three, but the Red Sox have now out-hit the Yankees 31-23, and outscored them 23-11, through three games of the ALDS.

Luis Severino's very first offering of the game clocked in at 95-mph.  Leading off for Boston, Mookie Betts hits said pitch 405 feet away to the base of the center field wall for a very long out.  After which, the route is on.  Severino faces 18 batters through three innings, allowing six earned runs on seven hits and two walks, with two strikeouts.  The Yankees bullpen (Austin Romine aside) allows eight more runs on ten hits and five walks, with just two strikeouts.

In a tale of two acquisitions, the Yankees acquire J.A. Happ, who through his career has pitched very effectively against the Red Sox.  In Game One, Boston knocks him out of the box after just two innings upon allowing five earned runs on four hits and a walk.  In turn, the Red Sox acquire Nathan Eovaldi, a one-time Yankee, whom likewise has a reputation for pitching well against his former club.  In Game Three at Yankee Stadium, Eovaldi pitches a gem, allowing just one earned run on five hits, no walks, with five strikeouts, through seven full innings pitched.  In the seventh he pops the radar gun at 100-mph.

With another victory on Tuesday, the Red Sox clinch a trip to the ALCS, but not before making a complete mess of the visiting locker room at Yankee Stadium for a second time this season.  If you're the Yankees, there's all the motivation you need.

Game Four features C.C. Sabathia versus Rick Porcello.

Sabathia last pitched twelve days ago against Tampa, in which he pitches five scoreless innings of one hit ball, with no walks and five strikeouts before being ejected.  Sabathia is afforded a similar break coming out of the all-star break, when he goes two full weeks between starts.  Upon his return, he allows two earned runs on six hits and two walks, with eight strikeouts against Kansas City.  Over his last five starts, however, C.C. has allowed 13 earned runs over 21.2 innings pitched for a 5.51 ERA.

In Rick Porcello's last start against the Yankees on Aug. 3, he tosses a one-hit complete game victory at Yankee Stadium.  Porcello's last appearance against the Yankees comes in relief, when he records two game critical outs on 15 pitches in the eighth inning of Game One at Fenway.

Should the Yankees win, another match-up between J.A. Happ and Chris Sale awaits in Game Five.